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World Wildlife Day: TAP protects the Greek wildlife on land, water and air

06 March 2018

Greece. In light of the recent World Wildlife Day (3 March), the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) AG presents unique cases of best practices applied for the protection of Greek flora and fauna. Under its comprehensive Environmental, Social and Cultural Heritage Management System and with safety as its priority, TAP dedicates protect wildlife in Greece on land, in the water and in the air.

Caring for the environment before, during and after construction

Minimising its environmental footprint is a commitment for TAP. With the aim to protect and preserve Greece’s natural environment, and even before any construction activity took place, TAP conducted extensive preparatory and consultative work.

During the construction of the pipeline, several mitigation measures were –and continue to be– implemented. Specifically:

  • seasonal restrictions for certain construction activities during sensitive periods, such as nesting, denning, breeding or hibernation,
  • reduction of working widths through sensitive habitats, and
  • trenchless crossing techniques for sensitive watercourses.

And even after construction, the environmental teams of TAP and its contractors continue to monitor the areas traversed by the pipeline.  

Some examples of how TAP applies best environmental practices include:

ON LAND: Rare seeds collected

In preparation for construction, TAP’s scientific team collected seeds from the rare species Dianthus tenuiflorus, Dianthus formanekii and Verbascum cf. dingleri that were subsequently sent for storage, preservation and research to the Natural Environmental Laboratory of Silviculture at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. Due to their tiny size, the seeds were manually extracted from the collected fruit with great care and attention.


Protection of special neighbours

The pipeline has some very special neighbours, such as large carnivores, smaller mammals, reptiles, amphibians etc. In order to make sure they remain undisturbed by construction and that species of wild life are protected, TAP monitors and studies their behaviour.

For the protection of the larger animals especially, in collaboration with the EPC contractor Bonatti/J&P Avax and relevant NGOs (such as ARCTUROS, KALLISTO, the Environmental Education Centre of Kastoria, etc.), TAP has deployed dozens of cameras that allow for real time data collection 24/7 and recorded their activity. Grey wolves, wildcats, red foxes, roe deer and badgers have unknowingly posed for us since then, as well as a very special guest indeed: the endangered European brown bear.

The study and analysis of these recordings (frequency of captures, behaviour, presence or absence of young animals) provides TAP with detailed information for the activity of animals at specific locations and moments in time. Hence, further refining the project schedules.  

IN WATER: The spined loach of the Aggitis River

TAP crosses several watercourses, rivers, brooks and canals. To facilitate construction and mitigate disturbance, several of these crossings are managed with trenchless construction (going under the river) and by applying optimal engineering and construction controls.

When undertaking an open cut crossing, strict environmental controls are also considered. The Aggitis presents an example. The river, located in the Kavala regional unit, has been identified as a critical habitat stream for spined loach and eel. Consequently, works in the area were planned and executed accordingly, under the supervision of environmentalists and ecologists – including qualified fish experts from the locally based Fisheries Research Institute (INALE).

After preparing the area with the construction of spill response, a sedimentation pond to trap silt and sheet piles, the INALE specialists performed a low intensity electrofishing procedure to stun and collect the fish.

Over 400 fish from 13 species were captured and subsequently returned to the river downstream of the pipeline crossing, including Prussian carp (Carassius gibelio), Eastern mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki), and the endemic Aggitis spined loach.

IN THE AIR: Rescuing a young buzzard

TAP is committed to protecting avifauna in areas of construction. Characteristic examples include the Dalmatian Pelicans (Pelecanus crispus), a very large member of the pelican family and the world's largest freshwater bird, and pygmy cormorants (Microcarbo pygmeus) – both species inhabiting Greek wetlands, such as the Kastoria Lake.

Indeed, there have been times when TAP came to the rescue of injured animals. This was the case of a young buzzard (hawk), saved by an engineer at the "Potamos" area of Thrace in November 2017.

The bird was found lying injured in a small ditch by the road. It had been shot by a hunter and couldn’t fly. The avifauna specialist of TAP’s EPC Contractor in the area, Spiecapag, was alerted and the beautiful buzzard was caught and transported to the Wild Animal Rehabilitation Centre "Action for Wildlife" in Thessaloniki. After a few weeks of rest and care, it was released back to the wild.